The Sacred Hours of 3-8pm

Last year while at an activity at my girls’ school, I stood in a circle of fellow moms groaning about their schedules and commitments and how stressed they all were. It was May after all and even though I did not have even half the load they all had, I was feeling it too. But then this one particular mom pointed her actual fingers at the rest of us and said “You all need to get more involved next year, because there are certain parents like me that volunteer for everything and we just cannot do it all.” 

Nope. No. No ma’am. Keep your shame and your pointed fingers to yourself thank you very much. I slowly backed away before I said anything I would regret. 

There are a few things in this world that get me really fired up. One of them is when other people over commit themselves to misery and blame it on other people.  Which is quite ironic actually because I used to BE that person. Overcommitting and yessing my life away to make other people happy because that is what I thought a good person is supposed to do. And I used to honestly be shocked when I heard somebody else say the word ‘NO’ without having a legit reason. I had no idea you were allowed to do that!

And shocker, I never actually made everybody happy…enough. I was exhausted. Sick all the time. So forgetful. Just a general hot mess and I hated myself for it because I could not actually succeed at anything that was important to me. 

So in all honesty, I give this particular mom pointing her fingers a lot of grace. Overcommitment can happen so easily. It starts as just a small yes there, a little project here, volunteering to help someone out just one time. And God forbid you do a really good job at something, next thing you know you are leading the Girl Scout Troop and the soccer team and you are on the teacher appreciation committee, all which seemed like little things but take up WAY more brain space and time than you had to give.

We have good intentions, we think we are doing it for our kids. We think we are doing it because that is what parents with some free time are supposed to do. But does it actually affect our parenting in a positive way? No, we end up turning into cranky resentful people and our family gets the brunt of it. 

We give our best to the other kids at the school but then at home we are crazed, rushed, stressed monsters with the few precious hours we get with our school aged kids. And then we feel ashamed, because our intentions were to do this FOR them. It is a terrible spiral. Can you tell I’ve been there?

My girls are both in school for five days for the first time. What’s most important to me right now in this current stage of parenting are the hours of 3pm-8pm. They are precious, I’d call them sacred even. They are the only time I get with my kids during the week and unfortunately it is also when THEY can be at their worst. So it requires a lot of grace and patience to even be with them, but it is when they need me most. So I try to protect it the best I can but also make sure I am not going into those hours ragged.

And if I happened to volunteer my time to put 379 goodie bags together or I had too much to do that day and am answering emails while helping them with homework (do not recommend) or taking calls while I am driving them to soccer practice instead of talking to them- then grace and patience I do not have.

For the first time ever, I DO have some margin. And I am fighting (myself) like mad to not automatically say yes or volunteer for everything thrown my way. Because good golly for once I would like to enjoy time in solitude (gasp, how dare I!) so that my work for my actual paying job gets done, so I don’t feel constantly overwhelmed by my house and so that I am grounded and filled up as I can be when my kids are home. 

I am already feeling like this stage is flying by and I do not want to miss a second because I thought being a good parent was putting my name on one very sign up sheet or putting my kid in every activity known to man. Volunteering is important. But not everything is ours to do.

I will say yes to things that are MINE to say yes to, that excite me and that I have actual time for. But I too have to remind myself that I am a human being not a robot. I can’t do it all. 

As we go into these elementary years and everybody warns me to just suck it up and embrace the crazy, I find myself resisting that way of life. I don’t want to just exist and survive with my family, trying to get from one activity or task or homework sheet to another and call it parenting. I want a deep relationship, I want bike rides after dinner and snuggles while reading and getting to bed at a decent hour so that when they want to chat about their day as I am tucking them in, I actually have the energy to listen.

I want connection and I want home to be a place they want to come back to eventually. Which means keeping home and our time together sacred begins with me not overfilling my own plate OR theirs. 

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